Windows Phone Thoughts: My Week with a Dell Venue Pro

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Week with a Dell Venue Pro

Posted by Don Tolson in "Dell Windows Phones" @ 08:00 AM

The Keyboard

Of course, the main feature of the Venue Pro is the portrait-oriented slide out keyboard which means you don't have to rotate the unit in your hand each time you want to type something in. Nor does the application you're working in have to worry about supporting a landscape-version of the input screen. As I mentioned before, this is one of the features I'd heard a lot about on the forums and that users were raving about.

Figure 7: A close-up shot of the Venue Pro's keyboard. This seems to be a fairly standard QWERTY style layout, with the function key on the left and the Symbol key on the right Notice the 'smiley face' emoticon key in the lower right as well.

The keyboard is a full QWERTY-configured unit, with a number of 'special' keys available, just like the side-sliders. The biggest difference is the size and spacing of the keys themselves. For those readers who have experience with RIM Blackberry keyboards, this one is very similar. The keys are smaller, but still quite useable -- having convex bumps in the centre to make them stand away from each other and make them easier to press. When pressed, the keys have a solid feel response feedback.

Because of the key size and proximity, the keyboard certainly won't support double-handed touch-typing but it was fine for double-thumb typing and certainly more accurate (for me) than the on-screen keyboards.

One thing I was hoping to have with a portrait slider was the ability to use the keyboard one-handed. Unfortunately with the Venue Pro, the total width of the keyboard is just that little too much to reach with one thumb, and the weight distribution changes significantly when you reveal the keyboard. The only way to use the unit was to keep the screen supported with one hand and finger type with the other, or support it in both palms while I used the keyboard with my thumbs.

Screen

The screen on the Venue Pro is a 4.1 inch, 480 x 800 WVGA AMOLED capacitive touch screen, with multi-point touch capability. The screen is big and bright and easily readable in sunlight, but it didn't seem any better or worse than my LG Quantum -- just larger. I was hoping that the increased size would mean more displayed area, or at least better resolution on the displayed graphics. Instead, it seems like they just expanded the pixels or put them farther apart to increase the size of the display. Both my teenaged son and I noticed pixelation or 'blanks' between parts of the images we saw on the screen which was quite distracting and actually made the images look worse in some cases.

As mentioned above, the unit I received came with a screen protector pre-installed. I'm not sure of the brand name, but it didn't appear to be one of the higher-end models. It gave the screen a 'sticky' feel which translated into mis-read screen swipes, etc. It got so bad that I eventually removed it.

Comparisons

This thing is massive compared to the other WP7, WM6.x and Android phones I have worked with lately. It's much bigger and noticeably heavier than the LG Quantum I'm currently using. (The Venue Pro weighs 6.7 oz/190g compared to the LG's 5.9oz/167g) It's not unpleasant to hold in one hand -- just bigger. And it definitely feels heavier in the pants pocket.

Figure 8: Here's a comparison shot of the Dell Venue Pro on the left and the LG Quantum on the right. There is a quite noticeable difference in screen size, but everything seems to be just expanded to fit the available space. The LG looks a bit darker here, but I think that's just because of the background wallpaper. In use, the brightness is equivalent.

Figure 9: A side shot showing the thickness comparison between the LG (top) and the Venue Pro (bottom). The slot along the side of the Venue Pro is where the keyboard (lower section) slides out. The Venue Pro is just a little bit thicker than the LG.


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